Natural Causes by Henry Cecil
Created: Mon Mar 22 18:12:26 2010 | Last modified: Mon Mar 22 18:12:26 2010
How does a series of events - each uninteresting and trivial when considered in isolation - lead to the serious, unfortunate result of a judge's family getting into trouble over the natural death of a shady, undesirable character? How does a series of coincidences suddenly turn into considerable circumstantial evidence? Henry Cecil shows us how in "Natural Causes." The story is quite simple. Alexander Bean is a Newspaper tycoon and a megalomaniac who hates anybody who dares to tick him off. He constantly engages in litigation as a result of his tendency to fire his employees without notice and usually ends up losing a lot of money without putting up an appearance in court. However, when he does make a personal appearance at court one day, things turn out badly for him when the sitting judge ticks him off and ticks him off harshly at that. And so begins Alexander Bean's crusade against the judge. He carries out a smear campaign in his paper and revels in publishing every single mistake Judge Beverley makes in Court and simultaneously tries his best to dig out some dirty secret from the judge's past which would tarnish the judge's image considerably. And quite by accident Sidney York, a shady character, finds out about Mr. Bean's grudge and decides to cash in on the opportunity to blackmail the judge about an incident from the distant past which, when publicized, would force Judge Beverley to resign from the Bench and lose his pension. The situation takes an unfortunate turn when Sidney York dies under suspicious circumstances.
Henry Cecil weaves the story with considerable skill by creating the circumstances which lead to the climax. However, the story is slow moving and doesn't really benefit by all the preamble. Once the action starts however, and Sidney York comes into the picture, the pace quickens considerably. It also has its share of funny moments. Like when the whisky-soaked, incorrigible solicitor Mr. Tewkesbury and the bumbling, incompetent barrister, Mr. Frith Wyndham attend a Coroner's inquest. Mr. Tewkesbury's mannerisms, habits, his agility in dodging expenses of any kind and the expert manner in which he holds on to half of Counsel's fee are all hilarious. In fact, that is the best part of the whole story in my opinion and provides for some comic relief in a tense story.
I would say this is worth reading if you're already familiar with Cecil's writing technique. If not, you're likely to get tired of his somewhat long-winded approach to narrating an interesting tale.